Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - March - 2013 Issue

The Territories of the Dutch West India Company from Bestebreurtje Rare Books

Bestebreurtjelist60

The area of the Dutch West India Company.

Gert Jan Bestebreurtje Rare Books has issued a catalogue with the lengthy title, The area covered by the charter of the West India Company (WIC): Brazil, West Africa, New Netherland, The Netherland Antilles & The Guianas. For all of those names, this was a fairly limited area. The Dutch West India Company was no match for its larger cousin, the Dutch East India Company. The latter controlled massive interests in Asia, primarily in today's Indonesia, but on the continent as well. The West India Company had scattered, smaller colonies in the Americas and West Africa, including the Americas' largest city. That would be New York, but it was not New York then, nor was it of the importance it is today. It was New Amsterdam then, but was ceded to the British in 1667, and except for a brief period in 1673-74, has been out of Dutch hands ever since.

The West India Company was formed about two decades after the East India Company, and lasted almost as long, closing down less than a decade earlier (it did have to be re-formed along the way). While it had some modest success at times, most of its life it struggled, never developing the wealth the East India Company achieved. While the British, French, and Spanish all developed large colonies in the Americas from the 16th through the 19th centuries, the Dutch never managed more than a few small, scattered locations. Here are some of the items offered concerning these scattered colonies.

Anthony Benezet was a resident of Philadelphia and one of the earliest of the abolitionists. He wrote about the slave trade and its effects, and pushed the British to end the practice in their colonies. Item 6 is Some Historical Account of Guinea, Its Situation, Produce, and the General Disposition of Its Inhabitants. An Inquiry into the Rise and Progress of the Slave Trade, Its Nature and Lamentable Effects. While Benezet was focused on Africa and the British slave trade, this trade in slaves to the Americas applied to the Dutch colonies as well. Offered is a copy of the 1788 edition of this book first published in 1771. Priced at €1,100 (euros, or roughly $1,479 in U.S. dollars).

Item 8 provides a look at slavery and many other things in Dutch Guiana, also known as Surinam: Voyage a Surinam. Description des possessions neerlandaises dans la Guyane. The author was Pierre Jacques Benoit, and he visited Surinam in 1831, publishing this account in 1839. Benoit writes of his experience in the bush and with the Indians, as well as in the town of Paramaribo. “He cannot avoid picturing the harsh and cruel daily existence of the slaves and explaining why they run away, revolt against their masters and are filled with hatred towards the whites,” we are told. The frenzy of their festivals, he explains, provides an outlet from the misery of their daily lives. Of particular note is the many drawings Benoit made of what he saw and which are reproduced in this book. €3,500 (US $4,708).

Here is a more pastoral look at the Guianas: In the Guiana forest. Studies of nature in relation to the struggle for life. This book describes the forest, including its interaction with men, animals, and other plants. Other chapters cover “On the rivers and creeks; Up in the trees; In the swamp; On the sand-reef mountains; and On the Sea-shore.” The author was James Rodway and his book was published in 1894. Item 70. €95 (US $127).

Item 92 is a first look at the war that forever turned New Amsterdam into New York: Kort en bondigh verhael van't geene in den oorlogh... Published in 1667, it is the earliest account of this war that did not go so well for Holland. The capture of New Netherlands is described in this contemporary account of the war. €2,750 (US $3,698).

Item 80 is something of a before and after of the above. It is The iconography of Manhattan Island 1498-1909. Compiled from original sources. It is a 1998 reprint of the six volumes originally published from 1915-1928. This work uses contemporary maps, plans, views and documents to depict the physical development of New York over the course of four-plus centuries. €550 (US $739).

Gert Jan Bestebreurtje Rare Books may be reached at +31 (0)347 322 548 or info@gertjanbestebreurtje.com. Their website is www.gertjanbestebreurtje.com.

Rare Book Monthly

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